Johannesburg — AHEAD of the upcoming Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit, residents in the region called on the regional bloc to ensure free movement of people, goods and services within borders of member countries.
The summit is scheduled for Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe from 17-18 August under the theme, "SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region's Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition."
Residents however said the restriction around the movement of goods and people was stifling economic growth.
Botswana businesswoman, Magaret Tshosane, said continuous talk without implementing agreed issues would not benefit the region.
"It's high time our governments (SADC member states) should consult with its people on what they should talk about at each and every conference so that they carry our mandate.
"As it is, they (leaders) just telephone each other and start discussing anything they would have agreed upon themselves at the expense of what the SADC region's people would want done. This is unacceptable," Tshosane said.
Zambian, economic commentator Nigel Kapambwe, said the regional bloc should scrap off trade barrier among the SADC member states.
"SADC heads of state should stop pretending as if they don't know what its people want! We have said this long back ago....and we shall keep repeating until we do away with trading barriers among member states. We call for the reduction of tariffs," he said.
Lulama Ngcobo, a South African entrepreneur, said she hoped the forthcoming summit in Victoria Falls would enable leaders forge new strategy to promote trade and partnerships.
"South Africa appears to be the culprits in the SADC region by deny other countries' products and services to enter our country, yet on the other hand we always want our goods, products and services dominate in other SADC member states.
"If one looks at these laws very carefully, they are old colonial mechanisms aimed at denying fair trade with fellow SADC member states.
Imagine if those same SADC member states start banning our products," Ngcobo said.
Zimbabwean, John Mudzengerere, called proper implementation of agreements previously signed.
"SADC can host as much summits and workshops as possible, but as long as there is no commitment, political willingness by our leaders, we might not go anywhere towards economic transformation.
"While on the other hand we are enemies of our own, we have the superpowers monitoring from a distance to distabilise any meaningful summits aimed at developing the region and its people by creating divisions," he said.
Alfonso Damiyawo in Maputo, Mozambique, said the SADC region had vast resources, but argued that the main challenge was trade barriers within member states.
"Despite sharing the same culture, tradition, geography, political backgrounds and liberation struggle, we still suffer from the who-is-who syndrome in the region.
"Worse, some countries have deep problems of xenophobia, where our people are being murdered in cold blood yet their country is businessmaking huge investments in our country, this is unfair.
"We look forward to see how SADC would address such discrepancies, otherwise this regional bloc might be waste of both resources and time," Damiyawo said.
SADC member states include Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.